When the pandemic started, Michael Monahan felt like he was over a barrel.
The McCandless resident had recently left his job as a mechanical engineer to take his side business full-time, turning the wooden casks used by wineries and distilleries into décor and furniture.
With some luck and a bit of liquid courage, he launched Mystic Barrels with his father-in-law, Mitch Arnold, in 2018.
Their workshop and showroom at 427 Pittsburgh Street in Springdale — which is open to the public by appointment — is filled with authentic barrels of various sizes and styles from across the country. There are 59-gallon, Napa Valley wine receptacles and Kentucky-made wooden kegs ranging from 5 to 53 gallons. The company offers local pickup and delivery, personally delivers throughout PA’s 12 neighboring states, and ships anywhere in the country.
Leaving the boozy branding in place, Monahan and Arnold transform the barrels into tables, planters, cabinets, sinks and shelves. They even bisected one to create a bassinet for the newest family member, baby Nolan. The foot of the bed is stamped with the words “HANDLE WITH CARE. CONTENTS MATURING.”
Customers also can purchase the barrels as is for their own DIY projects. There is a series of video tutorials on the company’s website. One crafter used a barrel to make an arcade game cabinet (hopefully to house Donkey Kong!) and more than 100 Mystic Barrels were featured in “An American Pickle,” a Seth Rogen film shot in Pittsburgh.
Wheelfish, a Ross Township restaurant, uses the objects to accent their outside seating area. Last spring, the eatery partnered with Monahan and Arnold on a fundraiser, selling barrel planters for $50 each to raise money for North Hills Community Outreach. They look forward to hosting a similar fundraiser this spring.
Mystic Barrels, named after the Van Morrison song, “Into the Mystic,” started when Arnold wanted to convert his basement into an Irish pub. He added a few barrels for authenticity and that’s when the journey began.
“Humans have been using barrels to store liquids for thousands of years,” Monahan says. “They’re unique, timeless and functional. Once they’ve served their traditional purpose, they can be used for so many things.”